‘Year of Pain’ – please explain!

Published: February 22, 2022

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora wants the Government and District Health Board Chief Executives to publicly explain why senior doctors must experience a ‘year of pain’ before any pay increase will be considered.

Last year DHBs rejected a cost of living pay claim (1.5% at the time) from senior hospital doctors and dentists and offered zero percent. The DHBs commented that doctors and dentists needed to have a ‘year of pain’.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says the comment is insulting, particularly in the Covid environment and against a backdrop in which 50% of senior doctors report burnout.

“Our members are being asked to go the extra mile and haven’t hesitated despite battling entrenched staff shortages, burgeoning patient waiting lists, and very challenging working conditions.”

“This is the time when we need to show that we value our doctors, rather than taking them for granted or suggesting they need to suffer some more.”

Below are comments from frontline ASMS members, highlighting the frustrations.

“I think most of us feel the DHBs pay lip service to us, saying we are working hard, thanking us but not wishing to increase our income”

“The last few years of this pandemic, I’ve never felt more used.”

“The Government’s offer of a zero-pay increase is insulting. We are good people who do a great public service, and we deserve at least CPI.”

“The years of sacrifice and highly specialised training are being diverted hour by hour into private practice or across the ditch.”

“How can the DHB negotiators not realise the pain we have already endured with the extra work and stress related to Covid preparations and management on top of managing usual caseloads?”

“I have seen many good colleagues leave the DHB because private or locum work is so much more lucrative and with better conditions. It seems ridiculous to pay so much for locums when you could just pay fairly and retain good permanent employees and provide a decent health service.”

“We have been asked to do an awful lot more above and beyond for the past two years of Covid. For me it includes sitting in hours and hours of contingency planning meetings each week in addition to ‘business as usual’ and increased cover for absent/sick colleagues and apparently no recognition from the Board other than platitudes. Offensive really.”

In making the zero percent pay offer, the DHBs cited the Government’s public sector pay restraint policy. Three days of mediation late last year saw no change in the DHBs’ position and collective contract negotiations remain stalled.

Sarah Dalton says with inflation now running about 6%, the DHBs are offering what amounts to a significant pay cut.

The Government’s wage restraint policy has also disproportionately affected health professionals.

“New Zealand cannot hope to retain or recruit desperately needed senior doctors without some sort of meaningful wage growth. These are highly-specialised people working to keep New Zealanders safe and healthy, they should not be punished for their efforts,” Sarah Dalton says.

“We would like the Government and DHBs to front up and tell us why they think that zero percent pay offers and a ‘year of pain’ for senior hospital doctors and dentists are justified.”